Another memorable weekend in the books – the first of March – and we’re speeding toward the Triple Crown, the start of the American steeplechase season and Saratoga on the distant horizon.
If you’re scoring at home, we’re 61 days to until the Kentucky Derby, 19 until the Aiken Spring Steeplechase and 129 until Saratoga. Deep breath. We should have put those in By the Numbers. Thankfully we have plenty more below in our take on the weekend’s events. Enjoy.
“Five years ago here, we had [Post] No. 2 [with Gunnevera], and now we have No. 2 again. We repeat history.”
Trainer Antonio Sano after Simplification won the Fountain of Youth
“He doesn’t want to take any credit. We laugh about it. In like 10 years, I think maybe four times he took credit for a horse that I know wasn’t the best and he won.”
Agent Ron Anderson on Eclipse Award-winning jockey Joel Rosario
“I was hoping he would be fourth or better. He’s a big horse that needs some running, and he hadn’t run in five months. He needed the run. I’m glad he didn’t get involved in the spill. [Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.] said they fell just to his right and just missed him. He said he got tired the last eighth of a mile. I can go the Louisiana Derby, Florida Derby or Blue Grass. I can run in any of the three and I’d feel good about any of the three.”
Trainer Ken McPeek on Rattle N Roll, sixth in the Fountain of Youth
“This was a good field. Baffert sent a horse across the country and Pletcher had two horses…we’re just a small group of people from Saratoga running against the big dogs and we had the alpha today.”
Dave Lyon of Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, co-owners of Gotham Stakes winner Morello
“I had her in three weeks ago (Feb. 12), the race Kaboom Baby ran in (and scratched). Believe me, I’m glad she won, but she probably got a little tired today. I haven’t done a lot with her. She’s nice. We own the mare. Now, she’s a stakes winner. That’s huge.”
Trainer Randy Morse on Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes winner Connie K
“He’s always, to me, the last eight, 10 years that I’ve known the guy, he’s always been an A1 rider. But because of different situations, he’s been treated as an A2 rider. It’s not like he just got better. That’s my opinion. He’s always been good.”
Trainer Robertino Diodoro on jockey Ramon Vazquez, who plans to move his tack to Kentucky and New York later this spring and after the current Oaklawn meet
“I’m very fortunate. I got him from Tommy Bush. He developed the horse, and the horse came to me in great order, and I was able to reap the rewards. Because what Tommy did with him as a young horse, the horse just got better and better. No plans. First stakes race today, and I wanted to see how he shaped up, how he’d do. He handled everything. He’s getting better. He’s improving. So I love that.”
Trainer Ian Wilkes on Canadian Turf winner Mira Mission
“It was a perfect horse race. I told Ricardo (Santana Jr.) that I wanted to see him running through the wire because I wanted to see what he would look like against open company. A 1:09 flat? Listen, this is not just an Arky-bred. He’s a serious racehorse and he’s a champion Arky-bred right now.”
Trainer John Ortiz on Nodouble winner Gar Hole
“I don’t see why not. He definitely acts like it.”
Assistant trainer Toby Sheets on whether Gotham winner Morello will be able to stretch out
“We won’t get in the way of the trainers. If they tell us we’re going to go a mile, we’ll go a mile. … We’ll see what happens.”
Lyon on Morello
Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour update
Scrolling through Saturday’s results while sitting in the Little Rock, Ark., airport Saturday night – more on that to come – we couldn’t miss the results of the $75,000 Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds. Dowagiac Chief, the 3-5 favorite in the field of six, rolled to a 5-length victory for owner Michael McLoughlin, trainer Tom Amoss and jockey James Graham.
Amoss talked about the son of Ciaro Prince in his first Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour, which appeared on page 6 of the July 24, 2021 edition of The Saratoga Special. Dowagiac Chief had made only one start to that point, finishing sixth in a maiden dirt sprint at Churchill Downs in late June but Amoss was already thinking about the surface he relished in the Black Gold.
“He’s another that ran at Churchill, and they’ll make their second starts here,” Amoss said. “Just a little more distance. I’m looking forward to running them. Maybe with him we’re thinking turf.”
He talked some more to the Fair Grounds publicity team after the Black Gold, which improved Dowagiac Chief to 3-for-8 with $178,800 in earnings.
“The horse ran great,” he said. “He was able to control things on the front end. He’s a beautiful mover on the dirt, but we tried him on the dirt and it didn’t work. We like him on the grass.” …
“Mike McLoughlin, the owner and I have been together a long time. This is a horse that I bought for him at the Keeneland (September yearling) sale, so it makes it special. I’ve been a part of this horse’s life since he was a yearling. Look for him on the grass at a stake at Keeneland or Churchill.”
By the Numbers
8.39: Percentage increase in wagering on U.S. races in February 2022 versus February 2021, according to statistics from Equibase Co. The figure of $911.1 million was also up 1.09 percent from the $901.3 million during pre-Covid shutdowns in February 2020.
22.09: Percentage increase in U.S. purses in February 2022 compared to the same month a year ago. The $75.8 million horsemen competed for was also down 1.96 percent from the $77,336,485 they ran for in February 2020.
13.3: Percentage increase in wagering on U.S. races in February 2022 compared to February 2019.
9.79: Percentage increase in U.S. purses in February 2022 compared to February 2019.
10: Points needed to be in the top 20 and guaranteed a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. A dozen 3-year-olds of 2022 have that amount, from No. 16 Tiz the Bomb to No. 26 Golden Circle.
60: Points earned so far by Honeybee winner Secret Oath to lead the list of Kentucky Oaks contenders, 6 more than New York-bred Busher Stakes Venti Valentine and 10 more than Tunerloose, Kathleen O. and Shahama.
64: Points earned so far by Risen Star winner Epicenter to lead the list of Kentucky Derby contenders, 10 more than New York-bred Rebel Stakes winner Un Ojo and Fountain of Youth winner Simplification.
Best news of the day hit our email inboxes Monday morning with news that Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats will perform at Churchill Downs during its Thurby festivities on the Thursday before the Kentucky Derby.
John Shapazian and Rob Whitlock led the way on the handicapping front last weekend with six winners apiece on the Fountain of Youth Day card. They both tabbed Simplification in the headliner. John also picked You’re Killin Me, Veterans Highway, Virginia Joy, Coinage and Speaker’s Corner, while Rob had You’re Killin Me, Veterans Highway, Felix, Virginia Joy and Speaker’s Corner.
John improved his winter-spring season total to 26-for-97, a strike rate of just about 27 percent. Tom Law leads our group with 27 winners and a strike rate of just under 28 percent. Rob is two back with 25 winners with Jessica Paquette at 21 and Charles Bedard at 20.
The handicapper’s will return in this week’s edition of The Saturday Special, focusing on the Tampa Bay Derby card.